By Eduardo A. Encina and Joey Knight
As the 2010 prep football season approaches, the St. Petersburg Times will break down each position in the county. Today we take a look at linebackers.
1. Keith Lewis, Freedom: The 6-foot, 200-pounder is the gold standard at this position. Rivals.com ranked him the best linebacker in the Tampa Bay area, and his offers are a who’s-who of Division I-A teams: Auburn, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Southern Cal and USF.
2. Hunter Joyer, Tampa Catholic: His future is in the offensive backfield at UF, but on the high school field, the 6-foot, 245-pounder has been a relentless ball hawk and is one of the county’s strongest players.
3. Ramik Wilson, Jefferson: The outside linebacker (6-4, 220) can read plays well and come off the end. He led the Dragons with nine sacks and had 82 tackles. Texas Tech, Minnesota, Arkansas, Illinois, Rutgers and USF have all offered.
4. Anthony Harrell, Jesuit: By following his dad, James, to Jesuit, this Freedom transfer gives the Tigers what they desperately needed — a disruptive defensive force. Essentially the same size as Lewis, Harrell had 125 tackles and seven sacks last season.
5. Rodney Williams, Hillsborough: After being the heart of the Spoto defense the past two seasons, the senior (6-2, 225) brings his 11.6 tackles a game to the Terriers, giving them the impact player needed on a graduation-depleted defense.
6. Tevin Newman, Robinson: Though a tad light (6-1, 190), Newman is drawing considerable D-I interest. His breakthrough junior year included 10 sacks, six against Jesuit in a 50-10 district romp.
7. Tim Stewart, Tampa Bay Tech: Arguably the most versatile player on a stellar defense, Stewart is capable of floating back to safety or lining up at corner. Last season, he led TBT with three picks and blocked two kicks on special teams.
8. Harvellio Buie, Armwood: This is all you need to know about Buie and fellow Hawks outside linebacker Eric Striker: They’re so solid, coaches moved 2009 first-team all-state linebacker Juice McKinney to free safety.
9. Matt Suarez, Plant: The only remaining member of last year’s stellar linebacking corps, Suarez has 105 tackles last year for the Class 5A state champs. Now he will be a leader for a young defense that returns just two starters.
10. Jacob Zilbar/D.J. Hitchman, Armwood: These Hawks inside linebackers were so close statistically last year, and so complementary, it’s tough ranking one over the other. Together, they’re good for roughly 15 tackles a night.
Keep an eye on
1. Joe Worth, Newsome: The senior (6-2, 210) missed a month last season due to injury, but still averaged 7.5 tackles a game and was the heart of the Wolves’ physical, lunch-pail defense. If he can stay healthy, he could end the season as one of the county’s best.
2. Josh Pease, Middleton: In his first year with the Tigers after transferring from Brooks-DeBartolo, he largely went under the radar last year, but had 101 tackles and three sacks
3. Danny Taylor, Spoto: Another of those two-way “athlete” types Spoto seems to produce in abundance. Taylor, who had more than 70 tackles last season, also can play in the secondary.
4. Josh Scarberry, Gaither: Unheralded because of his team’s 1-9 2009 season, Scarberry is a defensive workhorse. As a sophomore last season, he blocked field goals (one), recovered fumbles (two), got into the backfield (two sacks) and made tackles (82).
5. Reshay Hubbard, Chamberlain: Sturdily built, Hubbard, who also might play some fullback, caught our attention with some wicked hits in spring practice.
6. Tavis Campbell, King: This undersized senior (5-9, 180) had 7.5 sacks last season.
7. Shawn Council, Brandon: Coming off a nine-sack season, Council also will spend a lot of time in his own team’s offensive backfield.
Other stories in this series: